Five Favorite Films

William Ludwig's Five Favorite Films

The actor who plays young Tony Soprano in The Many Saints of Newark talks about the wise guy's big heart, acting advice from Ray Liotta and Michael Gandolfini, and his love for Scorsese, Anderson, and Lightning McQueen.

by | September 30, 2021 | Comments

The Many Saints of Newark

(Photo by Warner Bros. / Barry Wetcher)

Young actor Willam Ludwig makes his feature film debut this month in The Many Saints of Newark, the long-anticipated prequel film to legendary mob TV series The Sopranos. And talk about an auspicious – and challenging – debut: Ludwig plays none other than a young Tony Soprano, stepping into the mammoth shoes of the late James Gandolfini, whose son Michael also plays the character as a teenager in the latter half of the movie.

It’s a testimony to the actor’s skills that he not only feels like an instantly believable young Anthony – here, a brilliant and promising kid with a good heart who finds himself pulled towards darker influences that fill his world – but holds his own against actors like Vera Farmiga (as his mother, Livia), Alessandro Nivola (as Dickie Moltisanti, his mentor and the protagonist of the film), and Ray Liotta (Dickie’s live-wire father).

It was Liotta who gave Ludwig one of his favorite pieces of acting advice: “Never take yourself too seriously.”

Ahead of the movie’s release in theaters and on HBO Max, we caught up with Ludwig to talk playing an icon, watching (or not watching) the Bada Bing scenes in The Sopranos with his dad, and about his five favorite movies… which include a Liotta classic.

William Ludwig’s Five Favorite Films

I really enjoy the style of Wes Anderson and the way he frames his shots so symmetrically, and the color palettes he chose, and he chooses, for all of his movies. I think that’s really impressive and amazing how he just sticks with that. And the characters that he comes up with when he writes, I think that’s so incredible; the actors that portray these characters are amazing, too.

I really like this movie a lot because the relationship between the concierge, Gustave, and the lobby boy, Zero, was really compelling – the relationship continues to grow over the film and they start to learn more about each other, especially Gustave learning about Zero and how he’s a refugee and he has his green card. And when Monsieur Gustave gets shot down by the French police and Zero continues his journey and Zero inherits, or buys, the Grand Budapest Hotel in the end of the movie and he is telling the story about how he changed it to make it feel more like him…

Goodfellas (1990)


So good. The performance by Ray Liotta in this movie! And I love the intro because I really like making little short films with my friends and I love the big dramatic music and intros with all the cuts synced with the music. I think it’s so cool in the beginning where it starts out with them closing the trunk and it just goes [makes sound] – Goodfellas – just the coolest thing.

I watched Goodfellas when we came back for reshoots [for The Many Saints of Newark]. I was talking with Ray Liotta on the plane there and he was like, “You should watch Goodfellas.” And my mom was like, “What do you think about that? What should he take from that movie?” He was like, “No, I just want to see what he thinks of me.”

He’s such an incredible actor and he’s got this mob movie thing down to a fine line. He’s spectacular. And he gave me this really good piece of advice where he said, “Never take yourself too seriously. All we’re doing is we’re just doing our job and getting some makeup done, dressing up, and playing pretend. We have an awesome job and we shouldn’t take it for granted.”

I love this movie. It’s such a feel-good movie. I just love Chris Pratt and his ability to switch from comedic to dramatic in an instance. I think that’s really, really compelling and he’s a great actor for that. And I love the music in this movie. It’s just, it’s so nice how it fits with the character and how they built the character around all this music. It was really fun to watch with my family and we all had a lot of laughs.

Such a classic. It’s so dramatic. I really like the message of hope it portrays. Because it’s these guys, they’re just stuck in prison for so long, they’re there for 20 years to life, all they can think about is possibly getting parole, which they’re always like, “Ah, it’ll never happen.” It’s based in the 1940s and all the outfits and the old-timey sets are really cool to me. I love time-period things.

Rotten Tomatoes: As someone who likes period sets and costumes, was it fun to be in a period film like Many Saints?

It was like being in a time machine. It was so amazing! There was this one scene on the pier; that was originally going to be one of the third or fourth scenes, but David Chase, he rewrote it to the opening, which I’m very happy with. But that scene was with 250 extras, which was incredible. And they were all dressed up in these extravagant suits and dresses all from the 1960s, all their hair done. Because travel back then, you had to be all dolled up and everything. And seeing all this old-timey luggage and these… Even the carts that they pushed the luggage in was just amazing. It was so incredible how they put this all together. It was like being in a time machine.

Cars (2006)


The original Cars: that is my most feel-good movie. I watched that movie when I was really little, when I was struggling with my asthma; I would be on breathing treatments and I would just watch that movie. I knew every single line to “Life is a Highway.” I could sing it effortlessly and my mom would just sit next to me. We’d watch it 500 times. I think she was tired of it, but I really liked it.

Joel Meares for Rotten Tomatoes: How familiar were you with The Sopranos before this opportunity came into your life?

William Ludwig: Well, the show ended the year I was born – if you can believe that!?

Rotten Tomatoes: I can!

Ludwig: So I had a little bit of familiarity with The Sopranos and that it was so legendary, but I never really understood what it meant to people until I got the role and I started doing a lot of research on it. And when we started telling people about it, they were freaking out. And I was like, “Wait, what? Oh, no, I’ve really got to do good on this one.”

I watched the first season of The Sopranos with my dad and my mom. And my dad made me cover my eyes during all the Bada Bing parts. And then we watched a few select key important episodes throughout the series. Again, [gestures covering his eyes] for all of the Bada Bing parts.

Rotten Tomatoes: You don’t share scenes with Michael Gandolfini, who plays teenage Tony, but I know you two did bond. Did you talk to him about the role and the character? What was your relationship like and how did he help you to become Tony/ Anthony Soprano?

Ludwig: Michael and I are super close now. The second I booked it, he reached out. He Skyped me. Skype, if you can believe that? He Skyped me. And he really helped me understand who Tony is as a character and what he means to so many people. And he helped me embody all the mannerisms, like the hunchback and how his face scrunches up like this [scrunches face] when he talks.

Michael Gandolfini in The Many Saints of Newark

(Photo by Barry Wetcher / © Warner Bros. )

Rotten Tomatoes: How would you yourself describe Anthony as he is in the movie, at age 11? If he was a buddy of yours at school and someone said, “Oh, what’s Tony like?”, what would you say?

Ludwig: He’s someone who just wants to do the right thing. He wants to help people. He wants to be there for people that he cares about. And he’s really innocent in the beginning of the movie. And you can see throughout the film, he grows up. He turns into a plant. When you do a science experiment in class and you put the light to the right and you put the plant upside down and you see how the plant always grows to the sunlight. Tony is like that: he’s drawn into this mobster lifestyle. Something that he doesn’t want to be a part of, but he’s forced into it. And he’s trapped in this mobster box of feeling like he has to grow up to be this big, scary guy when really deep down he wants to do the right thing.

Rotten Tomatoes: As well as working with Michael, you also worked with some pretty legendary actors. You spoke about Ray. Alessandro’s also incredible in this film.

Ludwig: Alessandro’s so good. He’s an amazing actor. The first time I was on set was the funeral scene. When I walked in, Alessandro was sitting down in this chair in the front row and he was just looking down. He captured how his character feels and he just portrayed that throughout the whole day. But when I walked up to him, when I saw him for the first time in person, he snaps out of it so fast and he goes, “Hey, Michael, how are you? It’s so good to see you.” And we chatted for a little bit. And then I go to my spot and he sits right back down, goes back down and starts brooding again. It was really amazing to watch him do that.

Rotten Tomatoes: And what about working with Vera Farmiga and establishing that mother-son relationship?

Ludwig: Well, Vera is such a sweet lady. She’s like a mother, really. Mattea Conforti, who plays young Janice, we taught Vera how to hit the whoa in 2019. If you can remember what the whoa is? [Author’s note: I did not, but William demonstrated.] We taught Vera Farmiga how to hit the whoa! And she told us the story about how Millie Bobby Brown taught her how to do the whip/nae nae.

Rotten Tomatoes: And finally, did you get to eat any of the baked ziti on the set?

Ludwig: Well, the confirmation scene with young Janice, I was shoveling penne pasta down my throat for eight hours. So I had probably the worst stomach ache I’ve ever experienced in my whole life.

Rotten Tomatoes: Because there’s no tricks for that when the camera’s on, right? You’ve just go to eat and eat and eat.

Ludwig: Hey, we didn’t have to pay for any of it.

The Many Saints of Newark is in theaters and available on HBO Max from Friday October 1, 2021.

On an Apple device? Follow Rotten Tomatoes on Apple News.

Thumbnail image: Kenneth Dolin, Bob Yeoman / © Fox Searchlight Pictures, © Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, © Warner Bros., © Columbia Pictures, © Walt Disney

Tag Cloud

binge Warner Bros. Countdown news TCA Awards Logo harry potter comics Mary Tyler Moore LGBT Disney FXX marvel cinematic universe YouTube Red golden globe awards basketball children's TV nature Anna Paquin Women's History Month Vudu dc IFC jamie lee curtis Western GLAAD BET Awards TIFF remakes Television Critics Association PBS science fiction Bravo scary movies rotten movies we love scary Fantasy japanese halloween tv NYCC natural history fast and furious 4/20 Showtime rt archives Pet Sematary ABC Travel Channel Valentine's Day HBO Max vampires television blockbuster A&E serial killer 2015 adaptation Super Bowl 2018 Drama Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt dreamworks Comic Book The Arrangement obituary doctor who 2017 docudrama Discovery Channel asian-american spy thriller Heroines Toys police drama Tokyo Olympics hollywood 72 Emmy Awards Shondaland comic Pop Watching Series Ghostbusters crossover spain richard e. Grant Amazon Acorn TV E! romance supernatural Year in Review Cannes zombie MCU critic resources VICE psychological thriller heist movie Film Festival series debate Polls and Games franchise Hulu video dark singing competition strong female leads french Tomatazos theme song Legendary cancelled TV shows reviews dexter versus CBS All Access Winners 2020 Nominations Amazon Studios rotten period drama dramedy rt labs critics edition action-comedy FX green book child's play Pixar Comedy Central king kong VH1 blaxploitation 20th Century Fox best australia Exclusive Video Calendar FOX black Biopics cancelled TV series Baby Yoda nbcuniversal live event japan The CW royal family Mary Poppins Returns History Fall TV social media emmy awards NBA dogs laika Music werewolf Opinion tv talk Superheroes discovery chucky documentary Netflix Christmas movies live action Marathons festival Freeform superman cancelled satire Pacific Islander deadpool GoT Summer DirecTV saw Tumblr crime thriller comic book movie Reality Competition Creative Arts Emmys Britbox Captain marvel parents 24 frames Spectrum Originals archives south america Classic Film sports genre biopic TV CBS feel good Black History Month Certified Fresh unscripted PlayStation Reality Apple TV Plus VOD YouTube Awards Tour Musical Musicals The Purge Ellie Kemper ITV 93rd Oscars Mary poppins Paramount Plus 71st Emmy Awards Avengers hidden camera 90s new york kong Dark Horse Comics SDCC Mystery james bond scorecard christmas movies prank cooking suspense know your critic technology TV renewals Action cartoon First Reviews Mudbound comic book movies Trailer Arrowverse new zealand documentaries docuseries halloween Peacock Box Office Apple Image Comics comiccon festivals golden globes DC Universe TNT canceled TV shows screen actors guild hispanic heritage month lord of the rings Broadway New York Comic Con renewed TV shows ESPN 21st Century Fox marvel comics The Walking Dead Marvel Video Games Fox News Lucasfilm award winner The Witch video on demand blockbusters Paramount Epix Universal Pictures finale international WGN American Society of Cinematographers Adult Swim thriller HBO nfl TV Land AMC kaiju Sundance batman a nightmare on elm street Disney+ Disney Plus SundanceTV Crunchyroll Winter TV toronto animated Fox Searchlight Superheroe cats Kids & Family Ovation CNN Paramount Network WarnerMedia Pirates mutant TCM spinoff Interview BBC One DC streaming service Tarantino book adaptation Sneak Peek FX on Hulu Hallmark Christmas movies kids superhero reboot Sony Pictures ratings RT History disaster Funimation IFC Films space what to watch game of thrones Starz free movies king arthur Brie Larson razzies boxoffice First Look Schedule San Diego Comic-Con sopranos foreign telelvision Holidays Lionsgate boxing psycho historical drama Comics on TV transformers Emmy Nominations political drama TV One comic books HBO Go streaming movies book cops worst movies GIFs miniseries indie hispanic DGA 99% classics CMT high school Shudder composers aapi A24 olympics target 45 Election Hear Us Out OneApp ABC Family comedies Masterpiece Set visit 1990s Tubi Animation Family crime RT21 78th Annual Golden Globe Awards CW Seed stand-up comedy Star Wars Trophy Talk Infographic all-time TCA 2017 Mindy Kaling adventure Elton John witnail See It Skip It 73rd Emmy Awards Disney Channel screenings 2016 trailers directors travel latino Instagram Live biography 2019 facebook spanish legend TBS worst elevated horror Walt Disney Pictures politics hist mob TCA Winter 2020 LGBTQ Spike YouTube Premium medical drama movies slashers ABC Signature war Star Trek President criterion Quiz Spring TV Rocketman Syfy TCA mission: impossible Martial Arts Sci-Fi cars APB mockumentary casting YA Amazon Prime quibi sitcom Apple TV+ venice justice league italian The Academy cancelled television Awards art house monster movies Disney Plus Rocky Writers Guild of America Turner Classic Movies dceu TruTV ghosts cinemax talk show twilight USA stoner rt labs zero dark thirty El Rey E3 rom-coms ID Lifetime Christmas movies adenture indiana jones Wes Anderson Red Carpet Esquire DC Comics dragons Pop TV Nickelodeon new star wars movies BET aliens Hallmark spider-verse Christmas SXSW Columbia Pictures sequels Endgame Best and Worst jurassic park critics Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Marvel Television godzilla cults true crime young adult Food Network vs. MTV AMC Plus mcc scene in color Thanksgiving Sundance TV MSNBC NBC stop motion breaking bad Extras Comic-Con@Home 2021 Universal pirates of the caribbean Trivia BBC Pride Month fresh game show Character Guide Amazon Prime Video gangster 2021 Neflix diversity based on movie Sundance Now sag awards ViacomCBS BAFTA Black Mirror Photos concert Podcast Television Academy Marvel Studios revenge toy story name the review die hard Teen slasher Emmys Horror OWN teaser Cosplay Lifetime posters Nat Geo Alien TLC Rock TV movies Disney streaming service Grammys The Walt Disney Company universal monsters romantic comedy 007 Crackle football Film PaleyFest sequel Song of Ice and Fire spanish language movie anthology Cartoon Network Country IMDb TV National Geographic Stephen King Holiday Comedy streaming films joker anime Chernobyl Oscars wonder woman Netflix zombies canceled black comedy Rom-Com spider-man Premiere Dates crime drama women Turner USA Network Academy Awards BBC America X-Men independent Binge Guide robots popular